Black Family Having a Cookout

Why Do We Celebrate Juneteenth?

For the first time, Americans will get June 19th off. Some won’t know exactly why. Although Juneteenth has only been recognized as a national holiday last year, African American (especially those with southern roots) have celebrated the day of June 19th for 150 years.

It’s kind of crazy that Juneteenth was never taught in our school systems. Yes, we heard about Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Sadly, this wasn’t the day slavery ended. I guess the government really does work slow because slavery was alive 2 years after the proclamation, during the tail end of the Civil War. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865 when Union soldiers share the news that slavery and the war was over in Galveston, Texas. It happened to be two months after the South’s official surrender. As a result, the newly freed slaves celebrated with Jubilee Day.

Celebrating Juneteenth Today

If you want to celebrate Juneteenth right, you have to look at the residents of Galveston, Texas today. It’s a special day where families to get together for fellowship. It’s kind of like the pre-party to Independence day where your uncle gets on the grill, red cups are everywhere, and black folk get together to talk about current events. More importantly, it’s a time to remember the family members that came before us.

The color of the day is red. The food eaten is mostly red and celebrators enjoy red soda. The reason behind the red dates back to the 19th century when red dye was a luxury. Black Americans occasionally used red dye for celebrations as the color also represents the Yoruba and Kongo tribes.

Juneteenth is also represented by a red, white, and blue flag. The flag represents the distinct fact that even in enslavement Black Americans have always been American. It is designed with a star in the middle that acknowledges Texas as the birthplace of the jubilee. The star also gives a reminder that every Black person is free. The burst that encircles the star signifies the future opportunities that freedom brings.

What Does It Mean to You?

In a country that prioritizes the status quo, people will see Juneteenth as a new “woke” holiday to help subside the racial tension that was 2020. Others will see the celebration of this holiday as unpatriotic. It’s the furthest from the truth. We tend to forget that African American history is American history. Just like we have Independence Day to celebrate our values of freedom, liberty and justice. Juneteenth is a day holds the same meaning.

For those new to the celebration, Juneteenth serves as a teachable moment. The school system doesn’t talk about Juneteenth. This day is a day to put slavery and the ending of it in its proper context. Trying to get rid of it as if it didn’t happen is the way for our country to heal. If you ask me, Juneteenth is the perfect holiday for us to talk about our founding principles, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution and how it relates to ALL Americans. Even if we went from slavery to segregation. Even if we still have to fight for basic human rights in 2020 and beyond. Let this day be a day to remember who we are and who we want to be as citizens of this nation.